This excerpt taken from the PG 8-K filed Feb 10, 2009.
We sponsor various post-employment benefits throughout the world. These include pension plans, both defined contribution plans and defined benefit plans, and other post-employment benefit (OPEB) plans, consisting primarily of health care and life insurance for retirees. For accounting purposes, the defined benefit and OPEB plans require assumptions to estimate the projected and accumulated benefit obligations, including the following variables: discount rate; expected salary increases; certain employee-related factors, such as turnover, retirement age and mortality; expected return on assets and health care cost trend rates. These and other assumptions affect the annual expense and obligations recognized for the underlying plans. Our assumptions reflect our historical experiences and managements best judgment regarding future expectations. In accordance with U.S. GAAP, the net amount by which actual results differ from our assumptions is deferred. If this net deferred amount exceeds 10% of the greater of plan assets or liabilities, a portion of the deferred amount is included in expense for the following year. The cost or benefit of plan changes, such as increasing or decreasing benefits for prior employee service (prior service cost), is deferred and included in expense on a straight-line basis over the average remaining service period of the employees expected to receive benefits.
The expected return on plan assets assumption is important, since many of our defined benefit plans and our primary OPEB plan are funded. The process for setting the expected rates of return is described in Note 9 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. For 2008, the average return on assets assumption for pension plan assets and OPEB assets was 7.4% and 9.3%, respectively. A change in the rate of return of 0.5% for both pension and OPEB assets would impact annual benefit expense by less than $50 million after tax.
Since pension and OPEB liabilities are measured on a discounted basis, the discount rate is a significant assumption. Discount rates used for our U.S. defined benefit and OPEB plans are based on a yield curve constructed from a portfolio of high quality bonds for which the timing and amount of cash outflows approximate the estimated payouts of the plan. For our international plans, the discount rates are set by benchmarking against investment grade corporate bonds rated AA or better. The average discount rate on the defined benefit pension plans of 6.3% represents a weighted average of local rates in countries where such plans exist. A 0.5% change in the discount rate would impact annual after-tax benefit expense by less than $50 million. The rate on the OPEB plan of 6.9% reflects the higher interest rates generally applicable in the U.S., which is where a majority of the plan participants receive benefits. A 0.5% change in the discount rate would impact annual after-tax OPEB expense by less than $10 million.
Certain defined contribution pension and OPEB benefits in the U.S. are funded by the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), as discussed in Note 9 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.